Undercover police cite two Key West Uber drivers for no permits

Uber may have started in the Southernmost City Dec. 4, but controversy around the popular ride-sharing service continues to swirl.

Two Uber drivers, Henry Braxton Allen, 33, and Richard Owen Uhl, 60, were cited Dec. 20 for violating two city laws that require permits for vehicles for hire. It happened during an undercover Key West operation dubbed Safe Hire.

Officer Matthew Haley wrote in a report that two undercover officers, around 8:49 p.m. Dec. 20, requested an Uber ride using a smart-phone application. They sought to go from the T.G.I. Friday's on North Roosevelt Boulevard to the Rum Barrel restaurant on Front Street.

Allen charged the officers $11. After they exited Allen's white 2013 Kia Optima, the officers conducted a traffic stop on Allen and asked him whether he had passenger vehicle-for-hire permits. Allen said he had neither a valid permit nor a passenger-for-hire decal.

"Henry Allen was aware he was operating a passenger-for-hire vehicle without proper documentation," Haley wrote.

The officers gave Allen two notices to appear in front of Monroe County Judge Wayne Miller at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 5.

Two undercover Key West police officers requested another Uber ride around 9:46 p.m. the same day. Uhl drove them in his 2011 blue Hyundai Santa Fe from the T.G.I. Friday's to Sandy's Cafe on White Street, an $8 ride.

Once again, the officers conducted a traffic stop after exiting the vehicle and asked Uhl about his vehicle-for-hire documentation. After saying he did not have a permit or a passenger-for-hire decal, Uhl was given two notices to appear in front of Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 8.

Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh said via e-mail Friday that "Uber stands by driver partners, and will reimburse the costs related to unjust citations."

Haley wrote in both of reports that according to Code Compliance Director Jim Young, Uber recently held a "recruiting seminar" in Key West seeking new Uber drivers. City officials attended and provided Uber with the ordinances covering for-hire car service.

However, according to the reports, the city has not received "any applications for Uber drivers to operate within the city."

Neither Young nor the Key West Police Department was available for comment due to the holidays.

San Francisco-based Uber operates in about 50 countries worldwide.